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Paul James - Editorial comment

Issue 42 Apr / May 2008

Between 1965 and 1999, energy consumption in Greater London increased overall by around 16 per cent, despite a net fall in population of seven per cent.

Moreover, London’s population has been growing again since 1983 - and is now growing faster than in the UK as a whole. This is driving increases in energy consumption in domestic buildings, offices and the transport system, outstripping the national rate of growth in energy demand.
According to a recent survey by energy supplier e.on, London office workers are the most wasteful in the UK – and lighting is the biggest single contributor to CO2 emissions in an office environment with a fifth of workers failing to switch off the lights when leaving a room. Switching off ten fluorescent lights in the office would save an average of 523g of CO2 a day and represents a monetary saving of £604.80 a year.
During the Switched On London Festival of Light this February it was clear that there is still a lot to be done in terms of wasteful office lighting in London. Each night of the festival office buildings, particularly in the London Bridge area, glared out its lighting when it was plain for all to see that very few tenants were left in their offices into the wee small hours. The problem is that many building owners have no interest in investing in initially expensive energy saving technology as it is the tenants who pay the electricity bill. This is not such an issue with new commercial developments that comply to Part L but most existing office spaces still have a long way to go.
However during a recent Mayoral debate at Ecobuild, in between the bumbling but slightly amusing mutterings of Boris Johnson, Mayor Ken Livingstone came up with solid plans for a programme to facilitate retrofitting in existing public and private sector buildings. The programme has been endorsed by the Clinton Climate Initiative and the C40 group of major international cities. The Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program will result in significant and measurable reductions in energy consumption and in the heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that further climate change, while lowering energy bills for major cities and private building owners. Buildings account for over half of urban greenhouse gas emissions and, in older cities such as New York and London, this figure can be more than 70 per cent. These building retrofits can reduce energy use by 20 to 50 per cent in existing buildings, which comprise the bulk of the building stock in cities. Thus, retrofits of existing buildings play a crucial role in helping to reduce energy use and emissions from buildings in cities. If these cuts are achieved, the current Mayor is to be applauded.



The editor with the Deputy Mayor of London, Nicky Gavron, during the Switched On London Festival of Light

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